2007 Malaysian Grand Prix
: Malaysian GP Wrap-Up By Jeremy McMullen
Reverse psychology can work! After the sheer dominant display Raikkonen put together in his first race with Ferrari it seemed this year's F1 season was a virtual lock for Ferrari and either Raikkonen or Massa. In fact, prior to the Malaysian grand prix, Fernando Alonso appeared to all but concede victory to the prancing horse team. Or was that a ploy? The Malaysian GP proved to be another demonstration in dominance. All of the drama ended up being behind the race winner, but the winner wasn't the driver everyone unanimously expected.
The new qualifying set-up got the blood flowing early on. Just as in the race, there have to be winners and there have to be losers in qualifying. The new qualifying system has proven to push every team to put forward their best. As a result, should there be a team that is struggling there will be some major surprises. So far this year it seems the team being roasted consistently is Honda. It is like pointing out to the world another person's flaws. Honda's flaws are out there for the world to see and it's rather embarrassing.
Barrichello failed to make it to the second round of qualifying. Button barely faired better and still was unable to out-qualify one of the B-team Super Aguri Honda cars. The trend of customer cars out-qualifying works teams also continued at the Malaysian GP as neither of the two Renault drivers Fisichella or Kovalainen could out-duel their engine customers Red Bull. Neither of the Renault drivers made it into the final round of qualifying. Red Bull, however, was able to at least have Mark Webber make it into the top ten. While the two Toyota team cars faired well, with both Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher starting out in the top ten, they were still out-done by the Toyota powered Williams car driven by Nico Rosberg who continues to impress with his speed.
The real drama of qualifying was the fight for the first four spots. At the end of the third and final round of qualifying there was a four car procession of potential pole winners. Raikkonen was the first in line to finish in the third round and was the first to sit on the provisional pole. Alonso was the second to finish and was the second to take over the top spot. Hamilton finished the qualifying session as the third car home after Raikkonen and Alonso but couldn't quite keep the same pace. Hamilton would eventually settle starting 4th. But Felipe Massa, the last person in the four car train, ended up raising the bar even higher and took the pole. The start of the race was a poor one for Massa; however, as Alonso took over the lead going into the first turn. In Massa's bid to keep his teammate behind him he left the door open for Lewis Hamilton who subsequently made his way past into second through the turn one and two complex. The rest of the first lap was uneventful for the most part with the exception of Adrian Sutil in his Spyker flying off the track at turn three, and thus ending his day after about 30 seconds.
After Hamilton took second away from Massa, Felipe desperately followed Hamilton trying to get the spot back. A lack of patience, or whether it was fury over such a poor start, caught Massa out. Going into turn three Felipe had a run on Hamilton but it required him going too deep into the corner. The excessive speed caused the Brazilian to shoot pass the apex of the corner and actually get off in the grass on the outside of the exit of the corner. Massa's failed maneuver let Hamilton disappear into the distance and benefited Raikkonen by allowing him to climb up into third. The move also opened the door for Nick Heidfeld who took advantage of the error and moved up to fourth. This move would unfortunately spell the end of Massa's chances for a top two result, perhaps even the podium.
In the end, Alonso would comfortably power his way to his first win of the season and first with McLaren-Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton would continue to impress as the rookie would hold off Kimi Raikkonen to come home second. Heidfeld crossed the line jubilant after bringing his BMW-Sauber home in fourth ahead of the Ferrari of Massa. Rounding out the rest of the points paying positions, Giancarlo Fisichella finished 6th in his Renault, Jarno Trulli 7th in his Toyota, and Heikke Kovalainen 8th in the second Renault.
FERRARI Despite starting on the pole, Massa's terrible getaway would cause him to slip to third. His even more brash move further cost spots. Massa would eventually settle into fifth, where he would stay almost the entire race. Massa would end the race following the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld. This poor showing would lead to him being ridiculed by almost all Ferrari fans.
Raikkonen had a rather quite Malaysian grand prix. Starting third, Kimi would lose a spot and run fourth until Massa's error promoted him to third. Raikkonen would eventually finish third after a splendid last couple of laps battle with Lewis Hamilton.
MCLAREN-MERCEDES Alonso had the quickest car almost the entire weekend and set the provisional pole time until eclipsed only seconds later by Massa. Alonso's quick getaway vaulted him into first and would not relinquish the position throughout with the exception of during pit stops. Alonso's impressive first win for McLaren-Mercedes came after Alonso made statements to the press about his belief McLaren was still behind rival Ferrari in performance and competitiveness.
Lewis Hamilton continued to amaze throughout the weekend. Lewis' bold pass of Massa through the tricky turn one, two complex was the stuff of a seasoned veteran. Even better still was Hamilton's coolness under the heat of the 'Ice Man' Raikkonen in the closing laps. That coolness under pressure led Lewis to make clear to his team over the radio after the race that he would win one race some time this season. He already has two straight podiums in his first two races and is on pace to better records set by some of Formula One's greats.
BMW-Sauber Nick Heidfeld proved the team's success was no fluke and that he was, by no means, an uncompetitive driver. Heidfeld continued to impress and ended up qualifying in 5th. The F1.07 chassis showed great speed and balance; enough to hold off Massa all the way to the end of the race. Heidfeld shouldered the load but relished the role. Nick jubilantly celebrated having passed the test after crossing the line 4th and giving himself and the team another five points.
Robert Kubica's grand prix started out well and turned worse. After qualifying 7th, Kubica suffered a puncture and, later, gearbox problems. Robert would finish the race but as the last car running in 19th place. Kubica's 2007 season has started out rough given a DNF at Australia and a finish well out of the points in Malaysia.
RENAULT After being belittled by team principal Briatore, things didn't seem to improve for Fisichella in qualifying. However, Giancarlo's great start allowed him to jump up from his 12th starting spot to 8th within the first couple of laps. Giancarlo would even run as high as 4th while cycling through pit stops. Eventually Fisichella would bring his Renault home 6th and in the points, but this is an alarming start for the reigning constructors champions.
Heikki Kovalainen's weekend started out as poorly as Giancarlo's and this amidst being placed in Briatore's crosshairs as well. Heikki qualified one spot better in qualifying (11th) but would not fair as well during the race. Heikki would quietly bring his Renault home in the final points paying spot, 8th.
HONDA Is there a silver lining to found? Button was able to make it into the second round of qualifying but could do no better than 15th. Just as in qualifying, Button's race seemed as if the Brit could nothing but simply round the track. The Honda proved faster than the back markers but not fast enough for those at the tail-end of the mid pack runners. Button was able to finish the race in 12th, but still out of the points. Even this result may not have been possible were it not for Schumacher's, Rosberg's, and Kubica's problems.
Barrichello's weekend started out terrible but ended with a sigh of relief and perhaps some hope. Rubens qualified the backup car and still decided to run his primary for the race. Such is life at Honda right now—it doesn't matter what car is run; it doesn't help. Barrichello's race, however, proved to be a bright spot for the team. Despite starting from the pits, Rubens would climb up through the pack, with some help, and would eventually finish the race just out the top ten in 11th. Still, this result is a far cry from the Honda team of last year.
TOYOTA All those millions of dollars have yet to pay off. Though he would qualify in the top ten Trulli's race would prove to be rather quiet. This is not a good sign for the big-budgeted team. Trulli's performance could only warrant a finish one spot higher than where he qualified, 7th. Despite being in the points this still has to be frustrating for the team.
What is more frustrating, however, is Ralf Schumacher's performance. Ralf qualified in the top ten (9th) but slipped back in the pack at the start. Ralf would continue to slip further back until running, at one point, last. Ralf would recover but only to finish a disappointing 15th. Rumors began in earnest that Ralf's job may be in jeopardy.
WILLIAMS-TOYOTA The Malaysian GP proved to be a race filled with highs and lows for the Williams team. Nico Rosberg qualified well, starting in the 6th spot, again showing off his good speed. The race, however, is not about one lap and that speed could not carry Rosberg to the finish. A suspected engine problem led to Nico's retirement with only 13 laps to go.
Alex Wurz's grand prix started out badly and turned rather good. Alex Wurz suffered from being stuck in gear during the first round of qualifying and had to start out in the 20th spot. During the race, however, Wurz climbed up through the field and was able to come home in 9th place, just out of the points. This inspired drive led many to wonder what Wurz and the FW29 could have done were it not for the gearbox problems in qualifying. RED BULL Just as with Williams-Toyota, Red Bull was able to put a car on the grid ahead of its engine supplier Renault. Mark, and his RBR3, were able to make it into the final round of qualifying but couldn't fair any better than the final 10th spot. Mark Webber's race seemed to begin and end with qualifying. Mark began the race in the ten spot on the grid, and as in qualifying, could do no better and eventually finished 10th.
David Coulthard couldn't match his teammate's pace, and therefore, started in 13th. David's race, however, started out and progressed well. Despite being mid-pack at the start, David drove his way all the way up to as high as 7th. Unfortunately, as the race wore on, so did his brakes. Soon, a situation arose where the steering shaft impeded Coulthard's ability to get full travel on the brake pedal. Due to this uncomfortable issue David retired the car despite an inspired drive.
SUPER AGURI Takuma Sato started 14th. Takuma's poor start led to squandering time in the back of the field prior to the first stop. After the first stop Takuma climbed up through the field steadily and reached as high as 12th. However, due to lost positions at the start Takuma's time was limited and he eventually finished the race in 13th.
Anthony Davidson, despite being fast, couldn't get out of the first round of qualifying and started 18th. Anthony Davidson's race started out well as he grabbed spots at the start. Anthony, unfortunately, fell back down in the field after his first stop. He would gain two spots before the next stop but would again suffer from the time lost in the pits. Davidson showed some signs of tenacity and speed but would come home a very quiet 16th. TORO ROSSO People can't complain about two teams using the same car when the one team appears no better for it. All weekend long the two Toro Rosso drivers ran together on the track. They qualified together on the grid and ran together in the race besides interruptions such as pit stops and other teams. Vitantonio Liuzzi's weekend proved to be uninspiring and disappointing. Despite making it into the second round of qualifying Luizzi's weekend went down hill. A terrible start relegated the Toro Rosso pilot to the back of the field and he would stay there until the pit stops began. He would fair no better throughout the rest of the race and finished 17th and that was only because of the troubles of others.
Scott Speed's weekend started out uninspiring but would end respectfully. The American had a good start and jumped up some places. He would be hurt after his first stop; losing many places. Speed would slowly make his way back up a couple of spots and finished the race in rather quiet fashion 14th. This was, however, a good solid performance given his early exit in Australia due to wheel problems.
SPYKER Neither of the Spyker cars had a Malaysian GP of particular note, especially Sutil. Both cars would have started last were it not for Barrichello's decision to revert back to his primary car. The race faired little better, if not worse, for Sutil. Adrian's race ended up being very short as he careened off the track at turned three.
Christijan Albers' race lasted only a few laps longer. Seven laps into the race Albers' engine let go and that spelled the end of Spyker's first Malaysian Grand Prix.